On February 10, Emory’s Creative Writing Program kicked off its Spring Reading Series by welcoming poet and non-fiction writer Cathy Park Hong. Professor Emory and fellow poet Robyn Schiff facilitated the virtual conversation alongside Hong. Despite the electronic barriers, Hong’s work shone.
Hong has published a plethora of works over the past 20 years. Her poetry books include “Translating Mo’um” (2002), “Dance Dance Revolution” (2006) and “Engine Empire” (2012). His most recent book, a collection of creative non-fiction, titled “Minor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoning,” was published by Random House, One World, last spring.
Hong coined the term “minor feelings” to describe a category of emotions such as shame, melancholy and suspicion brought on by, as Hong writes, “having daily racial experiences and irritating it to have one’s perception. of reality constantly questioned or rejected â.
âMinor Feelingsâ presents a series of personal essays grappling with the experience of understanding and accepting an Asian identity in America. Hong began the event by reading the first chapter of his book, which chronicles a significant depression moment in his life. Her documentary writing was detailed, relatable, and beautifully intimate, bringing the story to life as she attempted to understand herself and her identity in the context of white America. Her unfettered emotion and honesty made her writing unforgettable.
Hong then read some selected poems from the last section of his book “Engine Empire” titled “The World Cloud”. She began by reading “A Visit”, which begins with: “You are at home / You are wearing bike shorts and you don’t own a bike / In front of your window you see a flower that you don’t recognize. Hong’s use of second-person pronouns immediately attracts those who listen to his poetic landscape, creating an immersive and enveloping experience. She followed up by reading “A Crown of Hummingbirds” and concluded with “Fable of the Last Untouched Town”.
These poems take on a different voice than his non-fiction work – they are weird, dystopian and imaginative. âThe World Cloudâ looks far into the future, describing a society steeped in technology and considering how this could affect individual consciousness. When Hong wrote these poems in the early 2010s, this image of society seemed like a distant idea, but as we sat on Zoom listening to him read, it became clear that we are currently living in the world imagined by Hong.
âI envisioned this dark digital future,â Hong explained, âwhere the internet and the mind completely merge, and there is no separation between reality and digital reality, and the resulting isolation. Looks like we’re going through this now. “
Following her reading, Hong also hosted a private question and answer session for current creative writing students on February 11 during a chat with Schiff. The session prompted students to ask Hong about his process and purpose as a writer. Hong spoke passionately about his love and respect for translating poetry, his scattered approach to choosing a genre of work, and Britney Spears.
Hong also spoke about what it feels like to be an Asian American in today’s xenophobic climate, made worse by the pandemic and anti-Asian rhetoric from former President Donald Trump. While the current ascend In Asian American hate crimes was only recently revealed, this is just the latest manifestation of the racism ingrained in this country and it is nothing new.
âIt has been difficult for all minorities during the pandemic,â Hong said. âFor Asian Americans, what we’re seeing here is a recast – though it never went anywhere – – of the xenophobia of even 100 years ago. And what’s absolutely damaging about the model minority myth is that there is this assumption that Asians are: A) invisible and B) because Asians are invisible, racism against Asians is invisible. .
Hong then explained his motivation for writing his book and his belief in the importance of solidarity between minority groups.
âOne of the reasons I wrote this book is that I believe in the alliance,â Hong said. âI believe there are shared experiences between minority groups. We must be there for injustices against the black community and the Latinx community and the native community. It’s the only way we can be in this country.
It is evident that Hong’s work extends beyond the staff. âMinor Feelings: An Asian American Reckoningâ is Hong’s contribution to the ongoing struggle to achieve racial equality in America. While she acknowledges that her writings do not describe “the” Asian American experience, she offers her story to advance understanding of race, oppression and injustice in the United States. As Hong explains, intersectionality and a pluralistic approach to activism are vital.
Hong’s reading shows that activism can take many forms. Just raising your voice and telling your story can be enough to bring about change and instill hope.
âAsian Americans, we have to do the job,â Hong said. ” We have to talk. We need to be as loud as possible. We must mobilize. Only we can make ourselves heard.
If you want to watch Hong reading Where conversation along with Schiff, both recordings are available on Emory’s Creative Writing Program website.